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FEBRUARY DEADLINE LOOMS FOR MEDIATOR SELECTION IN COAL-ASH SUIT

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Lawyers for Kingston coal ash disaster workers and the company they contend exposed them to dangerous toxins have until February 17 to submit a proposal for picking a mediator to resolve a long-running federal lawsuit.

Chief U.S. District Judge Tom Varlan set a 30-day deadline from January 18 for the parties to submit a proposal concerning a mediator. He’s also giving both parties until June to mediate damages “in good faith.”

The clean-up workers must submit a list of people suffering from certain health problems tied to fly-ash exposure, as well as medical records and providers, by that deadline.

In November, a civil jury in U.S. District Court in Knoxville found Jacobs Engineering failed to properly safeguard dozens of former employees hired to help clean up after the 2008 coal-ash disaster in Kingston, and may have subjected them to life-threatening illnesses as a result.

Workers testified they became sick from exposure to coal ash and hazardous elements while at the site, but Jacobs discouraged their concerns or misled them about the dangers of exposure.

Millions of gallons of coal ash sludge – a byproduct of coal burning to power the plant – spilled from a collapsed dike at TVA’s Kingston plant in December 2008.

TVA, which was not a defendant in the November trial, had hired Jacobs to handle the cleanup. But a recent filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission indicated TVA could face liability, depending on the outcome of mediation.

“While TVA is not a party to this litigation, TVA could be contractually obligated to reimburse Jacobs for some amounts that Jacobs is required to pay as a result of this litigation,” the filing said, adding, “Further, TVA will continue monitoring this litigation to determine whether this or similar cases could have broader implications for the utility industry.”

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